Found: Pint Central (1226 Central Ave.)
Ingredients: Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye Whiskey, Cynar, Ariston Raspberry Condiment, lemon garnish
A few simple ingredients come together to create Ida, a beaut of a cocktail named after the Grecian nursemaid to Zeus, said to have changed the color of raspberries from white to red by pricking her finger on a thorn. Other than the name, nothing in the drink hails from Greece. Both Cynar, the bitter liqueur made from 13 herbs and plants, and the raspberry vinegar are from Italy and join Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye, which comes straight out of West Virginia.
In addition to these essential ingredients, there is one more element that’s vital to the drink’s flavor — the absinthe-rinsed glass.
“I wanted to do a light absinthe rinse to kind of bring out a little more contrast between the flavors,” says bartender Henry Schmulling. “The cocktail itself is very simple, very easy to make, but with a couple of extra additions to the process you can completely change the structure of the cocktail.”
Stirred and served straight up, it offers a boozy sip characterized by the beloved taste of whiskey highlighted by herbal notes like licorice, the sweetness of raspberry and the citrus-y scent of the lemon garnish.
Found: Stagioni (715 Providence Rd.)
Ingredients: Bulleit Rye, Green Chartreuse, Domaine de Canton, muddled cherries, fresh lemon juice, grapefruit bitters
The Tuscan-style revival home that now houses Stagioni was originally the residence of North Carolina native and socialite Blanche Reynolds. Her gorgeous villa served as an outpost for lavish parties and intimate gatherings, in which she went to great lengths to ensure good spirits were had all around. Rumor has it that the mansion’s swimming pool sometimes doubled as a champagne trough.
Found: IOS Greek Kitchen (210 E. Trade St. Suite B-1312)
Ingredients: OMB Southside Weiss, fresh lemonade, Saranac ginger beer
More often than not, it only takes a few simple, quality ingredients to concoct a superb beverage. And so is the case with this seasonal refreshment. In the midst of a steaming hot summer, beer and lemonade are two quintessential sips that just never seem to lose their charm. Together, they’re practically unstoppable.
Found: Fahrenheit (222 S. Caldwell St.)
Ingredients: Bird Dog Peach Whiskey, house-dried Fresno chile, simple syrup, pickled peaches
Fahrenheit’s near panoramic Uptown view has quickly made it one of the most iconic Charlotte spots to snap a romantic couple shot or cheeky selfie. But it’s more than scenery that sets the Cleveland-turned-Charlotte eatery apart from the rest of town. Atop its 21-story rooftop, you’ll find the usual suspects — fire pits and lounge chairs — but also something you’d be hard-pressed to find inside the Uptown grid: The sunny slice of sky-high real estate boasts a sprawling, and thriving, urban garden. Fahrenheit’s herb and heirloom tomato garden offers a versatile variety of greenery, with basics like thyme, rosemary and mint mixed in with less typical selections such as African purple basil and horseradish.
Found: 1900 Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar (1523 Elizabeth Ave.)
Ingredients: Prickly pear purée, lime juice, agave nectar, Mezcal, chili rim
Mezcal is a spirit with some seriously colorful origins. Cultivated in Oaxaca, Mexico, and long considered tequila's coarser sibling, it's a liquor that's deeply rooted in the area's cultural traditions. Maguey, the agave plant from which mezcal is made, grows predominantly in Oaxaca; thus, there's a good amount of regional pride for the smoky spirit. People from Oaxaca drink mezcal for every imaginable occasion, from weddings and baptisms to birthdays and funerals; hell, some even enjoy it in the morning in a terra cotta bowl of coffee. The popular saying, "Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien tambien" (for everything bad, mezcal, and also for everything good) gives you an idea of just how significant the spirit is in Oaxacan households.
Found: Lumière (1039 Providence Road, 704-372-3335)
Ingredients: Muddled orange and cherry, Sauternes, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, Grand Marnier, cherry as garnish
Lumière is bringing adoration for French food back to Charlotte's lost Francophile culinary scene. Along with petite plates and Parisian music, you'll find sophisticated sips inside. While wine is key for a restaurant serving French cuisine, Lumière's cocktail program doesn't disappoint, either. But unlike other spirit-forward haunts in town, you won't find a curated cocktail list floating the bar. "I'm just not a fan of giving someone a hundred pieces of paper," says co-owner Matthew Pera. "We have a dinner menu and we have a wine list and a dessert and cheese list. That's enough pieces of paper, I think. You go to these places and they have five menus on the table. That just seems to be too much and too complicated." To simplify, Lumière brings cocktails tableside via an antique 1960s bar cart, outfitted with all the necessities. Right now, those include the ingredients and tools to make Sauternes Punch, a classic drink adapted from the famous Savoy Cocktail Book. Libations will change regularly, just like the food. Pera says the cart is switching gears soon, with fresh classics like the French 75 and Death in the Afternoon, a champagne cocktail created by Hemingway, on the way.
Found: e2 emeril's eatery (135 Levine Avenue of the Arts #100)
Ingredients: Southern Comfort pepper, Aperol, lime juice, simple syrup and Cajun spice for the rim (chili powder, sugar, salt, cayenne pepper).
There's always an occasion for a drink or, in this case, a drink for the occasion. Mardi Gras, often dubbed "the biggest party in the world," would be one of them. Fortunately, New Orleans knows how to make a drink, and here in Charlotte, you can get a taste for the Cajun culture at e2 emeril's eatery. The New Orleans inspired restaurant is celebrating its knack for spirituous drinks with Southern Hospitality, a take on the classic whiskey sour.
Kevin Harris, bar manager of e2 said his inspiration for the drink was simple. "Mardi Gras is based in New Orleans so the Southern Comfort was a good tie-in. It was invented in New Orleans back in the 1800s. I used the pepper because of the Cajun influence down there ... but I didn't make it too hot, just a little bit of spice to go with the theme." The drink has a slight kick, but it's packed with hints of fruit, so you'll get a delightful swig of sweet and spice. If you like a bit of heat, opt to sip from the half of the rim that's garnished. Harris says he uses a basic formula for making cocktails, which includes a base spirit, modifiers and then elements like sweet, sour and bitter. That formula he uses, let's just say it's working.
Available starting Feb. 27 and will be offered on the spring cocktail list.
If you walk into Soul Gastrolounge (1500-B Central Ave.), you'll notice something new and shiny in the corner of the bar.
Soul, in all of its Plaza Midwood forward thinking, now offers select cocktails on tap. These vintage-inspired brass spigots, the only ones you'll find in Charlotte (at least for now), look more refined than typical beer taps, and their handles can be changed out with various liquor brands.
One churns out the Bangkok Sling, made with Bombay Sapphire East (a peppercorn and lemongrass gin), cherry Heering, Bénédictine, Cointreau, house-made pomegranate grenadine, lime, pineapple and Angostura. The other dispenses a longtime Soul staple, the Wise Old Buffalo, crafted with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Aperol, Lillet Rouge, and hints of orange and sage.
Behind the chic appearance of the taps, there's real practicality. If you've ventured into Soul on any night of the week, you'd know why.
"With our volume, trying to push out these cocktails has always been a problem," says beverage director Andy Maurer. "I want to do cool stuff the right way. I don't care how busy I am, it's going to be right. We've had to develop a way to make cocktails fast to pump them out but keep the creativity and quality the same."
Found: Pisces Sushi Bar & Lounge (1100 Metropolitan Ave.)
Ingredients: Ridgemont Reserve 1792 bourbon "washed" in rosemary duck fat, six-week barrel-aged Madeira, Angostura bitters and organic maple syrup.
This cocktail is only available for a limited time.
Found: Growlers Pourhouse (3120 N. Davidson St.)
Ingredients: Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Goldschlager, Grand Marnier, Uinta Punk'n Harvest Pumpkin Ale, cinnamon and sugar rim, orange slice.
This NoDa chill spot serves more than just beer, sausage and bar-side popcorn. Though it's not listed on the chalkboard, there is one fall-inspired sip that isn't the seasonal pumpkin beer. "Growlers Pour House is known for our extensive beer list, which is my inspiration for a lot of the cocktails I make," says bartender Nicole Ippolito. "I often will make guests drinks with their favorite beer. The idea behind the Dirty Ol' Punk'n was to bring out the fall spice of Uinta Punk'n beer with the use of the Goldschlager." Between the whiskey, beer and spices, you can practically hear the crunch of leaves while warming up with this fall-in-a-glass cocktail.